The retail sector needs to know when and not if it will be hacked

This year, major chains like Target and Walmart closed on Thanksgiving, which resulted in a 90.4 percent dip in visits to brick-and-mortar stores when compared to 2019. This change signals how digital and online purchases of goods (and services) are clearly preferred, especially as the Omicron coronavirus variant becomes a looming concern.

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To fuel this preferred customer experience, retailers have stated using the cloud. At the same time, this sector’s heavy dependence on supply chain and third-party service providers expands its attack surfaces like never before.

As online holiday shopping kicks into full swing, retailers need to step up their cybersecurity efforts and move beyond traditional security practices. To help balance security and compliance concerns with business needs, cyber risk quantification is an effective place to start measuring, managing, and mitigating cyber risks in real-time.

The perfect storm

From social media-influenced sales and app-based mobile purchases to cloud migration, the retail industry is shaped by the purchasing behavior of its customers. The sector also relies heavily on aggregated customer behavior data analytics to predict and advertise sales to targeted audiences. All of this data is stored on the cloud, and 77 percent of retailers acknowledge cloud security is a major challenge, making it the number one strategic challenge in the retail industry this year – up from number 14 in 2020.

Of further concern for the retail industry is a recent attack on Ikea, which shows how even basic attacks such as phishing and email security aren’t off the table.

Aggregate data, mitigate threats

We have already seen cybercriminals take advantage of the increased demand for online shopping by creating fake websites, domain spoofing real sites, or redirecting to a malicious e-commerce site on check out. Other challenges such as credential spoofing, doxware, AI botnet-enabled attacks, and so on continue to plague the industry, particularly during this time of year.

Retailers are aware of these security challenges, but they need to take a more proactive approach to get ahead of adversaries. Today, many retail organizations are investing billions of dollars yet still depend on traditional means to prevent modern cyberattacks. They invest in various cybersecurity services and products to secure every aspect of the enterprise across people, processes, policies, technology, cloud, and third-party service providers, but these cyber strategies are often reactive and speculative. It is important to remain agile in the face of new attacks but relying solely on a “defend-when-it-happens” mindset leaves organizations always a step behind adversaries, preparing for the threats of the past rather than the future.

While 69 percent of retail sector CISOs believe cybersecurity is a priority, they need to unify cybersecurity efforts across their organizations to improve their posture. Instead of using multiple fragmented dashboards and security products that generate too many signals with too little context, organizations need a single view into their true cyber risk at any given time across all business areas. Aggregated API signals can represent the breach-likelihood of businesses in real-time.

This is critical so that retailers can accurately monitor and detect threats in real-time throughout their system as shoppers access sites from mobile devices and various locations. Automated tools that account for external and internal signals can allow IT administrators to better understand a businesses’ riskiest threats and demonstrate where improvements would most reduce their breach likelihood.

Combatting cloud complexities

While cloud services create efficiencies, reduce computing costs, and improve data management, retailers also need to keep in mind that a cloud presence requires security by design. However, this is easier said than done. Security teams often choose efficiency over security while having the freedom to customize configurations.

Cloud resources are classified according to their functionality – such as ARNs in AWS or Instance IDs in Google Cloud and Azure. These instances are foundational to the enterprise’s cloud architecture and security. As more retailers adopt the cloud, cyber risk quantification can bundle every instance by its functionality and provide a breach-likelihood score per resource, as well as measuring across the organization’s complete cloud environment. This ultimately helps provide real-time visibility about the potential financial loss the retailer faces from its cloud security or lack thereof.

This holiday shopping season, e-commerce companies and retailers need to take a closer look at their security posture to understand their overall breach-likelihood, ensure their cloud assets are not misconfigured and that consumers’ personal and financial information cannot be hacked to avoid financial and reputational loss.

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